Ditchling Beacon should not be taken lightly. That was the verdict of the three-man Spirit in Sport team of Coach Chris, Andy (Office Manager) and his friend Adrian, who all completed the 55 mile endurance test in September. The Ditchling experience for the three riders was varied; gym regular Adrian prepared meticulously for the hills, Andy was determined to not get off and walk this time in his return for a second year running, and first-timer veteran Coxy planned to persevere on the pedals as much as physically possible. After braving the beacon, all three riders shared the same elation as they cruised down to Brighton and the beachfront finish line. 

The Sunday ride began with an early start to complete the first challenge – getting to the Clapham Common start line at the 6:30am allocated time. With Andy picking up Coach Chris and Adrian at 2am from Portsmouth, the excited team headed off along the A27 to park up in Brighton and catch the first London train of the day at 4:39am. 

The first test came before the start line however when the train driver announced at Gatwick station that emergency engineering works were causing long and uncertain delays up to South Croydon! Eventually the team reached Clapham via a London Victoria detour, and were ushered through to the start line to set off immediately. 

Waiting for the doomed 4:39am to London

London to Brighton is a straight north-south route that takes you out of a sleepy Sunday morning in south London and into the scenic countryside of Kent. This year saw a nippy mist covering much of the first third of the event before the first of two stops at 17 miles. 

The second third of the ride becomes quiet as riders become more dispersed with heads facing downwards, focused on the steady hill climbs and re-energising descents. 

At 30 miles, the second stop is a welcome relief – literally for those willing to endure the queues. By this point the 3 man Spirit in Sport team had separated from each other. Two of the 3 experienced slipped chains and resulting greasy hands – with Coach Chris having to knock on the door of a local resident for help! 

Queue for the toilets at the half way point!

Plenty of flat and gentle rural roads made up much of the second half of the ride. And that was needed for the daunting last climb! Fresh from his experience of 2021, where the Ditchling Beacon bends and gradients became all too much in the pedals, Andy held back some energy for the challenge this time around.

Determined not to stop pedalling – and reminding himself that the joy of the Lord was his strength (at every rotation of the gears!) – Andy reached the final bend and was delighted to see his friend Adrian had waited at the top (for 45 minutes!) to cheer him on! 

Riders recuperate at the top of the Beacon

Andy and Adrian then took on the descent to the finish line, with a spontaneous sprint for the last stretch, a rest on the beach and a free coffee, before congratulating the third and final team mate on his successful completion of the course.

Very much encouraged by the experience of the event – but already considering alternative ways to get to the start line – Spirit in Sport are now planning for a return in 2023 with a much bigger team ready to face (and hopefully be) that beacon on the hill!


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